I am frequently asked by cyclists whether it is legal to ride their bikes on the sidewalk. As a attorney representing cyclists around the state of Florida I have also confronted this issue in numerous bicycle accident cases. Many cyclists feel intimidated by riding next to trucks and cars, especially if the road’s speed limit is high. So they choose to ride on the sidewalk. Here, they often confront pedestrians and have to deal with cars pulling out of driveways or making unanticipated turns from the road in front of them. When accidents happen, the issue is asked whether they should have been riding on the sidewalk at all.
In Florida, it is generally LEGAL for cyclists to ride their bikes on the sidewalk – so long as there is not a local ordinanace or municipal code section which prohibits it. As an example, the city of Jacksonville allows riding bicycles on its sidewalks, but cyclists may not park their bicycles on the sidewalk within a business district. In Neptune and Atlantic Beaches, which are close nearby, riding on the sidewalk is also permissible. But in Jacksonville Beach, municipal code, section 31-5, prohibits riding bicycles on the sidewalk. Here are a couple of other examples – In Miami, cycling on the sidewalk is generally allowed, but section 8-6 of the municipal code prohibits riding on the sidewalks of Southwest 8th Street between 4th Avenue and Tamiami Canal Road. In Tampa, section 25-185 of its municipal code prohibits riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district, and also prohibits riding on the sidewalk when signs are erected on the particular sidewalk which specifically prohibit it.
Under Florida law, a cyclist riding on the sidewalk generally has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances. Although a cyclist riding on a sidewalk has the rights and duties of a pedestrian, he is still a “bicycle rider” and his bicycle is still a “bicycle”. According to the Florida Department of Transportation, cyclists may ride in either direction on the sidewalk. However, the FDOT recommends riding on the sidewalk in the same direction as other vehicular traffic.
While cycling may be entirely legal on the sidewalk, depending on the location, it may not be optimal. Some bike safety experts contend riding in the road is safer than riding on the sidewalk.
A cyclist riding on the sidewalk must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before passing the pedestrian on the sidewalk.
If you choose to ride on the sidewalk, be vigilant. Be safe. And make sure there is no local ordinance which makes this illegal. If you have an accident while riding on the sidewalk, please feel free to call me to discuss your legal rights.